Image from Unsplash.

Image from Unsplash.

In a lot of academic and professional scenarios, there will be times when you have to run meetings, discussions, or hold presentations. In order for everyone to leave the discussion with a lesson learned and a fun experience, the meeting must be held in a productive way. Productive discussions allow others to feel as though their voice is respected, and feel comfortable sharing their opinions and stories.

Creating these types of welcoming learning environments can be hard, and will vary depending on the type of people in the group, what the conversation is about, and what type of setting you are in. At the beginning of every discussion, it is a good idea to go over Group Rights to cover these bases and get a feel for what the people expect out of the conversation. Participants may not like a group right you suggest, and they may suggest group rights that may seem silly to you, but will really help them feel comfortable and learn the material.

Below are some of my favorite group rights, along with explanations on how they’re helpful.
I use these group rights in everyday conversations, too! They’re not only useful in professional settings, but also necessary for respectful discussions.

Throw Glitter, Not Shade

Two words: positive reinforcement. Throw Glitter, Not Shade focuses on optimism. When someone shares an idea, experience, or lesson, it is important for everyone in the group to not “throw shade” on a participant. If an idea may not work with someone else, it can be tackled, but should be handled in a positive manner. “Throwing shade” on others in the group will make that participant not feel valued, and may deter others from speaking up and sharing their opinion.

One Diva, One Mic

When someone is speaking, everyone else should be respectful of that and keep quiet. If other participants are talking over someone else, it is really detrimental to the conversation. Not only does the discussion become hard to follow, it also shows the person speaking that their opinions are not valued. This becomes even more important when the person sharing their story is usually more reserved and shy – they have mustered up the bravery to speak up, only to be talked over. As a facilitator, it should be clear that acting like this is not welcome in the group.

Speak from Your Own Truth

This group right stresses the importance of I-statements. Speak from your own experiences and opinions, don’t devalue others’, and don’t make assumptions! Speak from Your Own Truth also works really well with Throw Glitter, Not Shade: in order to provide reinforcement or disagree with someone, use “I” statements to show that while you may not agree with the idea, you still respect them as a person.

Manage Your Tech

In order to pay attention and participate in discussions, people should put away their phones. While this concept is somewhat annoying and “archaic,” it ensures that everyone will learn as much as possible. Along with the higher participation comes more respect – it would suck if someone wanted to share something only to see others looking at their phones. Not cool.

Take Lessons, Not Names

Confidentiality is key! People will feel much more comfortable sharing their stories if they know for a fact that these stories won’t be shared. Often times, these stories are being told for a reason, and teach a lesson or spark a new discussion topic. Feel free to take this with you; learn from the others’ experiences, but don’t spread their names.

Make Space, Take Space

This group right is so helpful in nearly every group conversation you will ever have. Make Space, Take Space focuses on the amount of time participants talk in the discussion. Obviously, people should feel comfortable speaking up, but if one person talks over others and takes up too much space in the conversation, others will be left out. For example, if a person is less confident in their voice, it may take a while for them to warm up and participate. If another is jumping in every time there is a chance, there will be no time for the quieter person to ease their way into the conversation. If you find you’re taking up too much space in the discussion, step down, and warmly smile at the others to show you want to hear what they have to say, too.

Stay Solution Focused

Every group discussion probably has a goal to either educate people, formulate a plan, organize something, or anything else of the sort. If something goes wrong, it is important to realize that the participants should focus on the solution to the problem. The goal is not to talk over people or provide others with a bad experience; ensure that the others learn everything and participate with the goal in mind.

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the author

Originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, Debra is a first-year college student in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In her free time, you can find her roaming the streets of Boston, attending concerts, bragging about women's colleges, blogging, drinking coffee, and procrastinating. She is a first-generation college student that aspires to go to law school one day and change the world (on a somewhat-small scale).

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